~~March 31, 2014~~
The History of Lego spans almost 100 years of the existence of a toy that grew from small wooden playthings in the early 20th century into the center of a vast market of plastic building bricks that dominated the world markets for decades. It is one of the oldest plastic toys in the world. Its manufacturing was started in Denmark, but was eventually replaced by factories throughout the world. Today it is one of the most successful toys and has remained an iconic brand with a loyal and continuing following. The traditional date for the first Lego blocks is 1947, and the toys have continued to be produced with little interruption since around that time.
The Lego Group began in the carpentry workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen, in Billund, Denmark. In 1916, Christiansen purchased a woodworking shop in Billund which had been in business since 1895. The shop mostly helped construct houses and furniture, and had a small staff of apprentices. The workshop burned down in 1924 when a fire ignited some wood shavings. Ole Kirk constructed a larger workshop, and worked towards expanding his business even further.
When the Great Depression hit, Ole Kirk had fewer customers and had to focus on smaller projects. He began producing miniature versions of his products as design aids. It was these miniature models of stepladders and ironing boards that inspired him to begin producing toys.
In 1932, Ole Kirk’s shop started making wooden toys such as piggy banks, pull toys, cars and trucks and houses. The business was not very profitable because of the Great Depression. Farmers in the area sometimes traded food in exchange for his toys; Ole Kirk continued producing practical furniture in addition to toys in order to stay in business. In the mid-1930s, the yo-yo toy fad gave him a brief period of increased activity until it suddenly collapsed. To reduce waste, Ole Kirk used the leftover yo-yo parts as wheels for toy trucks. His son Godtfred began working for him, taking an active role in the company.
In 1934, Ole Kirk held a contest amongt his staff to name the company, offering a bottle of homemade wine as a prize. Christiansen was considering two names himself, “Legio” (with the implication of a “Legion of toys”) and “Lego”, a self-made contraction from the Danish phrase leg godt, meaning “play well.” Later the Lego Group discovered that “Lego” can be loosely interpreted as “I put together” or “I assemble” in Latin. Ole Kirk selected his own name, Lego, and the company began using it on their products.
But how much do you know about LEGO’s past? Where did LEGO start? What in the world does LEGO even mean?
Here are some LEGO facts that you may have not known.
The LEGO Company was started in 1932 by a man named Ole Kirk Christiansen in Billund, Denmark. In 1934 he came up with the LEGO name by combining and abbreviating two Danish words, LEG GODT, which means“play well”. Ole Kirk died in 1958, and the company was handed down to one of his sons, Godtfred.
Following World War II, plastics became available in Denmark, and Lego purchased a plastic injection molding machine in 1947. One of the first modular toys to be produced was a truck that could be taken apart and re-assembled. In 1947, Ole Kirk and Godtfred obtained samples of interlocking plastic bricks produced by the company Kiddicraft. These “Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks” were designed by Hilary Page. In 1939, he had applied for a patent on hollow plastic cubes with four studs on top (British Patent Nº.529,580) that allowed their positioning atop one another without lateral movement.
In 1944, Page applied an “Improvement to Toy Building Blocks” as an addition to the previous patent in which he describes a building system based on rectangular hollow blocks with 2X4 studs on top enabling the construction of walls with staggered rows and window openings. The addition was granted in 1947 as British Patent Nº 587,206.
In 1949, the Lego Group began producing similar bricks, calling them “Automatic Binding Bricks.” Lego bricks, then manufactured from cellulose acetate, were developed in the spirit of traditional wooden blocks that could be stacked upon one another but could be “locked” together. They had several round “studs” on top, and a hollow rectangular bottom. They would stick together, but not so tightly that they could not be pulled apart. In 1953, the bricks were given a new name: Lego Mursten, or “Lego Bricks.”
Plastic products were not well received by customers initially, who preferred wooden or metal toys. Many of Lego’s shipments were returned, following poor sales. In 1954, Godtfred had become the junior managing director of the Lego Group. Godtfred’s conversation with an overseas buyer struck the idea of a toy “system”, with many toys in a line of related products. Godtfred evaluated their available products, and saw the plastic bricks as the best candidate for such a “system”. In 1955, Lego released the “Town Plan” as such a system, using the building bricks.
The building bricks were moderately received, but had some problems from a technical standpoint: their “locking” ability was limited, and they were not very versatile. In 1958 the bricks were improved with hollow tubes in the underside of the brick.
This added support in the base, enabling much better locking ability and improved versatility. The company patented the new design, as well as several similar designs to avoid competition. Ole Kirk Christiansen died that same year, and Godtfred inherited leadership of the company.
In 1962 LEGO started experimenting with motors, and 4 years later the first LEGO Train is introduced with a 4.5 Volt motor and rails.
In 1968 the first LEGOLAND is opened in Billund, Denmark. It’s right next to the original LEGO factory.
In 1969, LEGO DUPLO is launched. It was made with little kiddies in mind so they made the LEGO bricks bigger.
The first modern LEGO minifigure was released in 1978. In LEGO started giving the first pirate minifigs different facial expressions instead of the usual dot eyes and simple smile. With the Pirates theme also came the first hook-arms and peg-legs.
In 1998 the LEGO group made an agreement with Lucasfilm to launch a series of Star Wars sets based on the movies. The agreement was recently extended by another 10 years.
~~Here are some other fun facts about LEGO and the company~~
- LEGO should always be written in capital letters.
- LEGO was named Toy of the Century by Fortune Magazine and by the British Association of Toy Retailers.
- There are 2200 types of Lego pieces. (How in the world did they get a number exactly on a hundred?)
- There are 19 billion pieces being made every year, 2 million per hour and 36000 per minute!
- There are 55 LEGO brick colors.
- LEGO is the largest tire-manufacturer in the world.
- This is how LEGO bricks are made: ABS plastic is heated to 232 Celsius until it becomes really soft but not that it drips. The plastic is then put into molds at a pressure depending on the type of piece being made (25-150 tons). It takes 7 seconds for the plastic to cool.
- The LEGO Company guesses that out of every 1,000,000 LEGO bricks made only 18 will be rejected due to some defect.
- The LEGO Group’s motto is “Det bedste er ikke for godt” which roughly means “Only the best is good enough”. It was a saying by Ole Kirk.
- The Official Online LEGO Shop was started in 1996.
That’s the end of our little tour of LEGO’s past and the present.
As for the future, my guess is that LEGO will continue being successful, continue making new LEGO themes and people will continue enjoying LEGO well into the future!
~~LEGO man at our local Barnes and Nobles book store~~
~~The History of LEGO~~
~~Published on Dec 5, 2012~~
This is the history of LEGO from 1942 to 2012. It shows how one man’s idea of a wooden toy company can turn into a company that sells billions of LEGO plastic bricks every year.
Ten Top LEGO Facts!
Love playing with LEGO? Then check out these ten top facts!
1. LEGO’s founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, created the name “LEGO” from taking the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well“.
2. If you put the 340 million Minifigures produced last year next to each other in a line, it would stretch a whopping 7,900 km – that’s almost the distance from London to Beijing, China!
3. The famous LEGO brick that we play with today is more than 50 years old. The bricks made way back in 1958 will still fit perfectly with those you play with today!
4. The moulds used to produce LEGO bricks are accurate to within two-thousandth of a millimetre (0.002 mm!). Because of this high degree of accuracy, there are only around 18 bricks in every million produced that fail to meet the company’s high quality standard.
5. The world’s tallest LEGO tower is 28.7m high, made from with 465,000 bricks!
6. LEGO Minifigures are the world’s largest population, with over 4 billion of them around the world!
7. During the Christmas season almost 28 LEGO sets are sold each second. Yikes!
8. At LEGO attractions, such as LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester, people are hired as “Master Model Builders“. Now what’s a weird and wonderful job to have!
9. Laid end to end, the number of LEGO bricks sold in a year would reach more than five times round the world.
10. On average there are 80 LEGO bricks for every person on earth.
Wow! Pretty amazing, huh?
~~Facts That Will Change The Way You Look At LEGO~~
~~Published on Dec 4, 2013~~
They’re surprisingly sophisticated.
We ALL are ONE!!